January 17

Briefcase

Best Buy stocks slide after weak sales report

Best Buy said Thursday it had disappointing sales during the holiday shopping season, raising concerns about the consumer electronic retailer’s ability to turn around its business.

Shares tumbled nearly 29 percent on the news.

Best Buy was struggling even before the holiday season because of increased competition from online stores and discounters like Walmart. But under CEO Hubert Joly, Best Buy started a turnaround strategy that included revamping merchandise, training employees and cutting costs.

Joly said business was hurt by supply constraints for key products, a drop in customer traffic and a disappointing mobile phone market.

United Airlines to furlough 688 of its flight attendants

United Airlines plans to furlough 688 flight attendants after it didn’t get enough of them to take a buyout.

The airline announced last year that it is aiming to cut $2 billion in annual expenses. At the same time, it is still operating what amounts to two separate airlines since the 2010 merger with Continental. Flight attendants still fly separately on the planes that came from those two airlines.

The airline has had more flight attendants who came from the United side than it needs, a spokeswoman said Thursday. Meanwhile, the Continental side hired 485 flight attendants last year.

Mortgage rates drop after increasing last year

Average U.S. rates for fixed mortgages declined this week, edging closer to historically low levels.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average for the 30-year loan fell to 4.41 percent from 4.51 percent last week. The average for the 15-year loan eased to 3.45 percent from 3.56 percent.

Mortgage rates have risen about a full percentage point since hitting record lows a year ago.

Most economists expect home sales and prices will likely rise around 5 percent this year, down from double-digit gains in 2013.

Unemployment claims fall, signaling more job stability

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell 2,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 326,000, a sign that layoffs are weighing less on the job market and economic growth.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average dropped 13,500 to 335,000.

Applications appear to have stabilized near pre-recession levels, a positive sign for hiring going forward.

– From news service reports

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